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At the time of its publication in 1930, The Fur Trade in Canada challenged and inspired scholars, historians, and economists. Now, almost seventy years later, Harold Innis's fundamental reinterpretation of Canadian history continues to exert a magnetic influence.
Innis has long been regarded as one of Canada's foremost historians, and in The Fur Trade in Canada he presents several histories in one: social history through the clash between colonial and aboriginal cultures; economic history in the development of the West as a result of Eastern colonial and European needs; and transportation history in the case of the displacement of the canoe by the York boat. Political history appears in Innis's examination of the nature of French-British rivalry and the American Revolution; and business history is represented in his detailed account of the Hudson's Bay and Northwest Companies and the industry that played so vital a role in the expansion of Canada.
In his introduction to this new edition, Arthur J. Ray argues that The Fur Trade in Canada is the most definitive economic history and geography of the country ever produced. Innis's revolutionary conclusion – that Canada was created because of its geography, not in spite of it – is a captivating idea but also an enigmatic proposition in light of the powerful decentralizing forces that threaten the nation today. Ray presents the history of the book and concludes that "Innis's great book remains essential reading for the study of Canada".
Harold A. Innis (1894-1952) was a Canadian professor of political economy at the University of Toronto and the author of seminal works on media, communication theory and Canadian economic history.
Arthur J. Ray is a professor in the Department of History at the University of British Columbia, and author of Indians in the Fur Trade and I Have Lived Here Since the World Began: An Illustrated History of Canada's Native People.